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Discover Our State In the Holiday Season | By Celia McGuire

It is during this wonderful season that every city and town in our beautiful state is being transformed with the most colorful and gorgeous finery, with wreaths, garlands and candles. Unfortunately, it is also the most hectic and commercialized time of the year, when the shopping malls are crowded and precious time is spent in traffic jams, diminishing the true meaning of the holiday season. But if you want to breathe in the smell of the pines or enjoy specially decorated places, North Carolina offers many options during the month of December.

In Germany you would visit the “Chistkindl Markt”, the famous Christmas Market, where you can enjoy a glass of warm spiced wine, eat some onion quiche and peruse the many booths with the beautiful Christmas ornaments and mangers. In North Carolina, the most famous destination during the season is the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, the fabulous recreation of a chateau in the Loire Valley. It was built by Richard Morris Hunt, the renowned architect for the base of the Statue of Liberty, for George Washington Vanderbilt. It took five years and one thousand workers to make this dream a reality. It was built with the latest technologies of the time, like Edison’s filament light, plumbing, refrigeration, central heating and an elevator system.

The 50 of the 255 rooms open for tours fascinate the visitor with the most lavish decoration, strikingly ornate Christmas trees, a mansion filled with bright red poinsettias and the sounds of the choral groups that entertain the visitors during the evening Candlelight Tours.

Outside the gates of the Biltmore Estate, you will find the quaint specialty shops, boutiques and bistros of Biltmore Village, which is a fairyland during the holiday season with all the cottages decorated and outlined with light garlands. You might not find warm spiced wine, but you certainly will find a wine tasting and winery tours in the Biltmore Estate Winery.

You should complete your holiday season’s Ashville getaway visiting the famous Grove Park Inn Hotel, which offers a holiday celebration during the month of December. If you cannot stay at this grand old resort, make sure you stop by its beautiful Great Hall with a towering 24-foot tree and where 12-foot-long logs blaze in the two fireplaces. You can drop in for afternoon tea and listen to the festive concerts.

In an opposite corner of North Carolina, in coastal New Bern, you will find another wonderful seasonal celebration during the month of December. It takes place in the Tryon Place, which is a real testament to North Carolina’s history.

I appreciate when buildings are preserved or rebuilt for generations to come, so it is with great awe and admiration that I visited the Tryon Palace which, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, was burned to the ground in 1798, but rebuilt according to the original drawings of John Hawks. It was the finest government building in all the colonies, and the only one who housed two colonial governors and four state governors. Although at the time it was built the money for it was allocated by the elected assembly, it is said that many North Carolinians complained bitterly about the higher taxes collected for its construction. Today, it affords us a way of reliving the historic past and an insightful way of enjoying our holiday season.

New Bern also offers a Colonial Christmas and Candlelight Tour of Historic Homes you might want to visit. Many other cities have prepared joyful events that will immediately set you in the holiday spirit. You might want to consider the following ones, among many other options:

Craftsmen’s Christmas Classic Festival in Greensboro.

Christmas Carousel Holiday Festival in Raleigh.

Tour of the Executive Mansion

and the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour in Raleigh.

Christmas Historic Home Tours

in Wake Forest, Southern Pines, Pinehurst, Chapel Hill

Hillsborough Candlelight Tour Moravian Candle Tea

in Old Salem, Historic Winston Salem

The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival’s annual production of

“A Christmas Carol”, a production of an old Christmas favorite which remains true to the Dickens spirit.

If you feel, though, that you want to enjoy our own home town during this holiday season, enjoy the Woman’s Club Holidays Home Tour, where gracious hosts open their beautifully decorated homes for all of us to admire and enjoy. And do not miss “A Dickens Holiday,” when Downtown Fayetteville is transformed to a Victorian Christmas Show.

From Candlelight Tours and special performances to Holiday Open Houses, North Carolina offers an array of options for the upcoming Holiday Season. Maybe in some of them you will be able to enjoy, not the warm spiced wine, but a cup of nice hot apple cider and reflect on the true meaning of the holidays.

Celia McGuire is the former owner of Global Travel and is enjoying her retirement by traveling and honing her skills as an artist. Her work was featured in a show at the Art and Soul Fine Art gallery during a recent Fourth Friday event.